Silene virginica L.

Silene virginica plant

Family - Caryophyllaceae

Stems - From a woody caudex, multiple from the base, herbaceous, erect, branching, fistulose, densely glandular pubescent, to 50cm tall.

Leaves - Leaves of basal rosette spatulate, petiolate, to +/-15cm long (with petiole), 2cm broad, acute, entire. Blades mostly glabrous. Margins ciliate, especially on petiole. Cauline leaves opposite, becoming sessile, lanceolate to lance-linear, entire, viscid glandular pubescent, acute, reduced upward, typically less than 8 pairs on a stem.

Silene virginica leaves

Inflorescence - Loose terminal bracteate cymes. Pedicels to -4cm long, densely glandular pubescent.

Flowers - Petals 5, clawed. Limb crimson, 2cm long, 6mm broad, notched at apex, glabrous. Claw -2cm long, mostly scarious but reddish near apex, glabrous. Fornices 2, 3-4mm long, erect, red. Stamens 10, half adnate at base of petals, half not adnate to petals, exserted. Filaments 2.4cm long, glabrous, greenish-white below, reddish near apex. Anthers 3mm long, 2-lobed, greyish-green. Ovary on small gynophore(to 1.5mm long), cylindric, yellow-green, 6mm long, -2mm in diameter. Placentation free-central. Ovules many. Styles 3, white below, red above, -2cm long. Calyx tube to 1.7cm long, 5-lobed, densely glandular pubescent, often with a reddish tinge, 10-nerved, glabrous internally. Lobes acute, triangular, 4mm long.

Silene virginica calyxCalyx.

Silene virginica flower

Flowering - April - June.

Habitat - Rocky woods, ledges, wooded slopes.

Origin - Native to U.S.

Other info. - This showy species can be found in the Ozark section of Missouri. This plant and the closely related S. regia Sims have some of the most brilliant red flowers in nature. Both of these species flower at the same time and can be difficult to distinguish from one another. S. regia differs from S. virginica in having many more pairs of leaves on its stem and by having petals which are not notched at the apex.
Both plants are worthy of cultivation and grow well from seed.

Photographs taken in Brown Summit, NC., 5-1-02.


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